Nigerian ruler set to announce country’s return to civilian rule

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Mapping out his plan to return Nigeria to democratic rule, the nation’s new military leader on Monday announced plans for elections and a civilian president by May 29, 1999, ordering a purge of the country’s political structure.
Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, who took over Africa’s most populous nation when military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha died in June, swept aside the flawed transition program begun during Abacha’s rule.
He ordered the dismissal of all charges against political prisoners and the dismantling of the previous regime’s electoral commission, and dissolved the five state-sponsored political parties created to support Abacha.
Since taking power, Abubakar has released dozens of detainees and promised a return to democracy, although he had hedged on the timing.
In his speech, he promised elections would be held in the first three months of next year.
Abubakar, who dissolved the cabinet in July, said Monday he would appoint new cabinet members from a wide spectrum of Nigerian society. He did not say when the appointments would be made, however.
He rejected a transitional unity government, which much of the opposition movement had called for, saying the government would not “substitute one undemocratic institution for another.”